Sunday, June 28, 2020

Honesty about guidance 4)

My home church at Chatsworth, West Norwood, expected me to preach one Sunday as part of the ongoing process.  I was given a summer Sunday when the minister was on holiday.  At the morning service I gave a serviceable message and the only comment received was that it was short! In the evening service, which used to be attended by as many if not more people, something happened which I have since written about. I preached on John 10: 20 'Many of them said that he was mad.'  While I was preaching suddenly there came a moment of intensity and stillness. Even while I was speaking I heard another voice clearly say: 'Michael, I call you to preach.'

Up until then nothing remotely like this had happened to me. As I have described, guidance in the last posts God's direction had come by means of indirect impressions. Here was something unmistakably direct.  A few hearers commented afterwards that they knew something significant had happened and there were several visible responses to the sermon.  I kept that experience private for many years but came to realize how much it grounded my desire to offer my best as a preacher. 

It was an odd focus for preaching had never been a major part of my church experience.  My father's preaching was always carefully prepared and thoughtful but I didn't see it as a particularly vital part of his ministry.  I had occasionally been captured by a visiting preacher whose presence and words conveyed spiritual power.  But very occasionally.  Little had encouraged this focus during my training. Indeed preaching seemed to be regarded as a mere function of ministry. Why a special focus? It was as though God was saying I want to use it transformationally not merely informationally. So this specific word to me was a surprise and set me on a life-long journey of humility and learning.

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